“And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4).
Sometimes we experience cultural shifts in our language, phrases that were once distinctive descriptions, which set an action or thought apart, become trite clichés as our mass population scrambles to fit within the boundaries of the metaphor. In their attempt to “fit” within the phrase inevitably the result is always the same; the meaning becomes changed and the phrase loses its depth of meaning. While this phenomenon is rife within secular society, the Christian church is not exempt, and we see that in the expressions “born again” and “born in the Spirit.”
It is true that we are admonished to be born in the Spirit, as is made evident in the following passages:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:5-7).
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).
So, what does it mean to be born in the Spirit? How does this rebirth tie into one’s baptism? And how does this relate to the fruits and gifts of the Spirit?
The birth of one’s flesh, namely one’s physical personhood, is an obvious experience. But to be reborn in the Spirit is a completely different experience. In the above passage from John, Christ says, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Notice He did not say you must be born, but that you must be born again in the Spirit. Why again? When we were fashioned in our mother’s wombs, not only were our bodies grown and developed; at the moment of our conception our spirit was born.
That piece of us, our spirit, is eternal. It does not fade like our earthly bodies. In the beginning God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:24).
We are created in the image of God in that we possess an eternal spirit, just as God is an eternal Being or Spirit.
Prior to man’s fall, there was no need to be reborn in the Spirit as our spirit was uncorrupted. But with man’s fall brought the death of his flesh, and with the death of this flesh brought the corruption of his spirit, and with the corruption of his spirit brought separation from his Creator. What man now needed was to be cleansed, that his spirit through this cleansing, could be reborn. However, man had not the capacity to cleanse himself. What was required was a perfect, uncorrupted sacrifice that could be offered up on behalf of Man.
And that sacrifice appeared in the form of the Messiah. He was the Word made flesh. His death offered up the sacrifice needed to cleanse the spirits of all mankind, and his resurrection was the result of his power over the death of mankind’s flesh. After his resurrection, he rejoined his followers to inform them that he was leaving in order that he may send them his helper, the Holy Spirit.
This is a very important piece to us, as Christians. And at times it can seem complex as well as perplexing. You see, His death and perfect sacrifice cleansed our spirits allowing us to be rejoined in communion with God (should we receive the knowledge in faith). And it is the Holy Spirit, which connects our spirit with the Spirit of God. Most Christians today are unfamiliar with the Holy Spirit, their connection to the spirit, as well as man’s history with the Holy Spirit. Prior to our Messiah’s appearance in the flesh, the Holy Spirit was not something that man had the authority to call on.
As such, pre-Christ men and women faced two realities of the Holy Spirit, no doubt a Spirit they knew very little about. 1) The Holy Spirit would descend, or fall, on those who God had chosen to complete a specific task or mission. The prophets of old are examples of such men whom the Holy Spirit would use to preach God’s Word for mankind. 2) The Holy Spirit was not a permanent reality to the men and women whom the Spirit would fall upon. Think Saul here; the Holy Spirit would descend on Saul, only to remove His presence after a short while. Man had limited access to the Holy Spirit because man had not the authority to call on the Spirit, much less the wisdom and knowledge to know the Spirit should be sought after.
After Christ’s death and resurrection, a new reality began to sweep across mankind. No longer did a schism divide the Creator from the created. Because of the power manifested in Christ’s perfection, death, and resurrection, man now had the authority to call on the Spirit of God and renew a connection that had been severed for millennia. This connection was, and is, manifested by the power of the Holy Spirit. And what a change it created. Man now had the authority to choose Christ and receive the Holy Spirit, as well as the fruits and gifts poured out by the power of the Holy Spirit.
While this was an amazing gift in our age of grace, it didn’t stop there. Once Man received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he could receive an eternal connection to God that would transfer from this life to the next. No longer would the Spirit descend and then ascend away from man, for the temple of God now resided in the hearts and minds of man, and God’s Spirit was now reconnected to the spirit of man.
Christ’s fulfillment established the eternal salvation for all mankind of every generation, once and for all. It was completed. All that was required of man was that he receives his salvation. From the time of Adam’s creation, mankind has exemplified another characteristic that resembled the image of God, namely; that man has a free will. It was Adam that chose death for mankind, yet God in his mercy saw fit to allow mankind (who inherited the sin of Adam) to choose life. When man accepts the salvation of the Messiah, and receives eternal life connected to the Father, an amazing transformation takes place.
The Holy Spirit connects to and inner dwells within he who chooses life. The life of the Father and the life of the Holy Spirit instantly manifests into the life of the person. And with that burst of God’s life come the fruits and the gifts of the Spirit. It is this transformation to which Christ called all men to partake of when he admonished us to born-again. This rebirth is our baptism. We have been reborn!
As Christians we must understand this principle, that there is a baptism of the Spirit and a baptism of water. It is the Spirit of God through the Holy Spirit that baptizes a man, and cleanses his spirit. The water baptism is a physical expression of that which has already happened spiritually. To receive water baptism without the baptism of the Spirit is to be dead in the Spirit and separated from God.
When we choose to receive life, and we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we also receive the fruits and gifts of the Spirit. This is an area that most Christians miss. When Christ ascended to the throne, he sent his Helper that those who follow Him may now have authority over the dark powers, and that demons and illnesses are subject to the power vested in His followers. Because the Holy Spirit dwells within man, the power of the Holy Spirit dwells within man, and it is because of this power that the fallen spirits and their chaos are submissive to those who rely on the Spirit manifested in them.
By receiving salvation, you receive the Spirit. By receiving life you receive the power of life, and that power is borne by the fruits and gifts of the Spirit. We are instructed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He also adds regarding the fruit of the Spirit that, “Against such things there is no law.” No man-made law can produce or force a man to exemplify the above listed fruits. These qualities of man’s character and morality can only come from the Spirit when one chooses to receive the Spirit by receiving salvation.
Adding to the fruits of the Spirit are the gifts of the Spirit. Before we discuss the gifts of the Spirit we should first define the differences between the fruits and the gifts of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are produced through Man by the power of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit are given unto Man by the power of the Spirit for the glory of God and the benefit of others. In summary, the power of the Holy Spirit in mankind is either given unto Man or produced through Man for the explicit purpose of glorifying the Creator.
Now, concerning the Spirit’s power that is given unto Man, we are enlightened in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individual as he wills.”
Notice in that passage that Paul says, “to each is given,” not to some is given, or to the apostles it is given, but to each is given. That includes every one of Paul’s generation, our generation, and all the generations, in-between. But the question that begs to be asked is why hasn’t each of these generations embraced the promise of the Spirit’s role in our lives?
Many Christians today (including clergymen) subscribe to the teaching that the miraculous events of the early church existed only in that generation in order to spread the Gospel of Christ; that because of our written Scriptures these experiences are not necessary to today’s world. Oh how Satan has spun a deceptive web! If Satan can convince today’s Christians that the power of the Spirit existed only in “Bible times” then he has effectively dismantled the arsenal of his enemy.
Satan realizes that man must make choices; that God will not force Himself, His salvation or His power on any person. If Satan can convince mankind to choose NOT to receive the Spirit, while at the same time convince them that they are saved, then he has them in a stronghold they will rarely fight against. And most important to Satan, they won’t be using the power of the Holy Spirit against him.
While many today receive this false teaching, if we are to have a clearer understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role in the lives of those who are born again in the Spirit, then we need to look at what Christ proclaimed. In John 14:12-14 Christ said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
Just a few verses later we are told why this will happen, particularly why we will experience the teaching and miracles Christ performed through our very own hands. In John 14:15-17 Christ shared:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
And as if that promise is too hard to believe, Christ reiterates this promise and how it will come to pass in the next chapter of John. In John 15:13-15 we read:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine, therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Christ makes clear in these passages that he would return to the throne and upon his return, He’d send His Helper—the Holy Spirit, to declare upon Man all that is His. This authority is granted to those who believe in the Son at the moment they receive their salvation granted to them. It is in this moment of receiving the salvation in a contrite and repentant heart, that one’s Spirit will be transformed by the working of the Holy Spirit. And with this transformation come the fruits and gifts of the Spirit, which is poured out abundantly to any who should believe!
Who wouldn’t want to receive such a blessing that Christ fulfilled on our behalf to the glory of the Father? This blessing, and more important, the connection we are now granted with our Creator, has already been fulfilled by the perfection, death, and resurrection of the Messiah! Now is the time to open our hearts and our minds to receive the gift of our salvation and the baptism of the Spirit. Now is the time to choose life over death, to choose salvation over eternal separation, and to choose the blessing already prepared for you.
The choice is yours…